The magic number of days it takes to make a habit is up for debate. We used to think that 21 days was the magic number. That number was given to us first by the plastic surgeon, Dr. Maxwell Maltz. He noticed that it took an average of 21 days for an amputee to adjust to the loss of a limb. He argued that it takes 21 days to adjust to a major change in life. Well, I hope we’re not talking about sawing off any limbs so I’m going to guess this argument is really not relevant.
A recent study in the European Journal of Social Psychology, Phillippa Lally and associates from University College London developed a study and concluded that 66 days is the average length of time it takes to get to the point of forming a habit. It starts on day sixty-six! It depends on the habit being formed though. Drinking a glass of water a day should only take about 12 days while doing exercises before breakfast took a lot longer.
Change also takes honesty. If you are fooling people by telling them you are hitting the gym everyday but you really aren’t, sooner or later the results will speak for themselves. Taking that first step is important but if you expect a parade after one day – even after two weeks – you are setting yourself up for disappointment.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” He’s right. Taking that first step is important. But I want to talk about what happens AFTER the first step is taken. How quickly does it take for us to fall back in to our old habits?
We typically hide our failures because we don’t want people to see them. Especially if we have declared from the mountain top that we are changed and never looking back. But how can we declare that on day one? You simply can’t. You aren’t free until you are absolutely free. And for many, that can take months, years, or a lifetime. Stop looking for the approval of others on this journey of a new you. Approval may very well be a long thing coming. It may never happen especially from those closest to you. If what you strive for is noble, right, fair and just. If what you resolve to be is to make yourself a better person. If that which you seek is approved by God – than it is worth any and every sacrifice you make to make it happen.
Reliance on the Holy is to be wise. And living one day at a time with a reliance on the Holy was taught by Christ. When we are in self-will, living for self, doing for self, even deceiving others for the sake of self; we tend to dwell on that which produces anxiety, worry and fear; and we fall or continue on destructive behavioral paths. As we dwell on these things we seek escape or false-comfort in anything from another trip to the fast food window to drugs. Christ tells us to have reliance on God and through that you will gain wisdom. But if you aren’t in the habit of doing that you really are not giving yourself much chance to succeed.
Lately I have been somewhat foolish in believing that change is a matter of making up one’s mind and then starting fresh the very next morning. If you made resolutions and started them on January 1 or January 2 perhaps you, too, have fallen or will fall in to the foolishness category. You are convinced that this can happen overnight because you WANT it. But you developed a bad habit, maybe its over-eating, or not exercising, eating poorly, drinking too much, or other addictions such as drugs, smoking or sexual addictions. Those did not happen overnight so why do we believe that our change FROM those will happen overnight?
Ok so that reality check is depressing. If it can’t happen overnight than what’s the point? The point is to become a wise person of your word. To become what you WANT to become in spite of yourself. To fight the fight that is within you – to beat the raging monster inside your head that tells you to do destructive things; that’s the point of a resolution. It’s a promise to yourself – not to others – oh it may be about others but the resolution is to yourself. It is between your heart and your God.
Don’t find excuses and more importantly stand up to them when they do come along. And they WILL come along. Your old self wants you back. That was ordinary. This whole ‘new me’ and ‘resolution’ stuff is not ordinary so old self is going to fight like crazy to see that it doesn’t happen. Fight the good fight. Resist temptation and seek reconciliation when you do wrong. Work hard every single day because when you decide to rest from your work is when the old self comes back to convince you the work is not worth the prize. But it is worth it – the work and labor of the journey is worth the final destination.
Those who know me will not be surprised how I end this. I’ve used this quote for as long as I can remember but I use it because it has truth. Your desire to change – your inner need to change those bad habits and make good ones – that’s a destination in your spirit. God would have never put it in your spirit if it wasn’t going anywhere. Set your sights on the prize and the promise of God and don’t be scared. Your desire is a confirmation that your destination is there. So do it. Regardless of your old self, in spite of others, in spite of old habits no matter how destructive and no matter how many were left dead or hurting in its wake: make the decision today to make positive choices and resolve to make them stick. To resolve means to transform. The transformation of your mind, body and spirit can be a long and sometimes painful journey but keep in mind and focus upon the end result. The end result if a far better you.
Look; one of the highest and most ultimate goals that God has for us is our transformation – our resolution. The Bible tells us, “and do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may PROVE what is that good and acceptable and perfect WILL OF GOD (not will of self) (Romans 12:2).